Yes, the 2012 Major League Baseball season, the rite of spring, is about to get underway. I recall last year at this time when the excitement in the air throughout Red Sox Nation was palpable. My beloved Boston Red Sox were declared, by virtually all baseball pundits, to be the team most likely to go all the way and to play in, if not win, the 2011 World Series.
Then the cold, hard reality hit. Being a Red Sox fan last season was not exactly a rewarding experience. The Sox got off to an awful start, losing ten of their first twelve games. By late April they seemed to have turned things around and began to live up to the pre-season hype. Everything was looking good until the final month of the season, when the Sox experienced their historic September collapse. Surely this new season can’t be any more disappointing than last year’s.
Or can it?
As this new season commences, I’m a bit more circumspect about the Red Sox’s prospects than I was a year ago. This is the “new” Boston Red Sox. Former Red Sox GM, Theo Epstein, who was at the helm when the Sox won the World Series in 2004 and 2007, is now the President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs, where he hopes to do for the Cubs what he accomplished for the Red Sox. Former manager Terry Francona, who skippered the team during their two World Series wins, lost his job almost immediately after the infamous September debacle. Francona is now a member of the broadcast crew for ESPN’s baseball coverage.
The 2012 Sox have a new management regime. Ben Cherington, a former assistant GM to Theo Epstein, is the new Boston GM. Bobby Valentine, who was a member of last year’s broadcast crew for ESPN’s baseball coverage, is the new Sox skipper. It seems Valentine and Francona essentially switched jobs.
Gone are closer Jonathan Papelbon, shortstop Marco Scuturo, and right fielder J.D. Drew. Catcher and team captain Jason Veritek retired, as did knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. The Sox have a new shortstop, a new right fielder, some new pitchers, and a few other less familiar names on the roster.
Can players who had outstanding 2011 seasons, like center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, have back-to-back great seasons? Will third-baseman Kevin Youkilis remain healthy for the entire season, something he’s been unable to do over the past two years? Will the starting rotation stay healthy this year? Can the bullpen keep it together in the late innings and preserve leads?
This year marks the centennial celebration of Fenway Park, Major League Baseball’s oldest ballpark. Dedicated and loyal Red Sox fans are excited at the prospect of another trip to the World Series in the same year that the storied ballpark is celebrating its hundredth anniversary.
Isn’t that exactly what baseball dreams are made of?
Or baseball nightmares?
Last year I was sure the Red Sox were going to go all the way and was crushed by their September crash and burn. This year my expectations are far less grandiose. If I’m pleasantly surprised by a great season and another trip to the World Series, that would be fantastic. But if they don’t quite make it to the playoffs, I won’t be as devastated as I was last year, when they were, on paper, anyway, expected to win it all.
Okay, that’s a bunch of crap. I’ll be just as devastated.